Somehow Thanksgiving is already rapidly approaching, which, this year, is bittersweet for me. My family has decided not to bring my mother out of her nursing home for the holiday. I believe it would be difficult and exhausting for the current version of her, and hard logistically, particularly with the short amount of stamina she possesses. Still, I feel guilty and saddened that she will be celebrating the holiday with an institutional version of this family meal. I just remind myself that it is what it is. We will figure out another way to bring some merriment to my mother over the holiday weekend.
I cannot help but recognize all I do have to be thankful for.
Friends. My cup overflows with my good fortune in maintaining friendships with so many incredible people. Friends of 30 years running, who share my history and remain part of my life. No matter the distance and infrequency of our gathering, it is seamless, picking right back up without skipping a beat. Even more amazing: watching our children play together, some now older than we were when we first connected. There are no words to describe how fully my heart swells with such interactions. Friends from college and graduate school. Connecticut friends whom I met almost 12 years ago, answering a Craigs List ad to form a bookclub, moms met through a fantastic Saturday Music Together class, and other random connections. I am amazed at my luck in creating and somehow, sustaining these relationships, despite our crazy, busy lives.
Work. For almost 12 years, I have worked at the same small office. My co-workers are bright, engaging, thoughtful and hard working. The work is interesting and challenging. I have discovered some work-life balance, taking advantage of flexibility while figuring out how to accomplish all that I need to get done. It is a special place and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it.
Cousins. I am one of eight first cousins on my mother’s side. Only my brother and I live on the East Coast, so there are not many opportunities for all or most of us to be together. Over the past decade, there have been sporadic visits and celebratory occasions, along with gatherings memorializing those we have lost. It is still hard to believe that we now are the adults here, the aunts and uncles, the 30 and 40-somethings who, when together, still feel like kids. Yet now, there are spouses and a whole host of children in the mix. We deal with aging parents and home ownership and all the other grown up decision-making which we, as children, took for granted.
Nursing home staff and volunteers. I am constantly in awe of the collection of kind individuals who work or volunteer at my mother’s nursing home. While even the best visits remain emotionally charged for me, the staff members are often smiling, providing my mother with daily stability and care, which her family is now unable to do. Her face lights up when someone there calls her name. Without carrying emotional baggage and regrets for what my family has lost, the staff gently assists my mother with the many things she can no longer do for herself, with seemingly unlimited patience.
Children. I must have inadvertantly ingested some extra vitamin goof in utero, because the two children we are blessed with are overflowing with silliness.
When they are not bickering, they are best friends, playing in the “secret hideout” (a.k.a. a sparse tree in our front yard), riding bikes and scooters, swinging. My son takes such good care of his sister, reading to her, compromising, making sure she is okay. They are kind, excitable, big-hearted, up for anything. They live life boldly and compassionately. I could not be more proud.
Spouse. 15 years ago this month, my now-husband and I went on our first date. Sitting in the Italian restaurant in the North End of Boston, I could never have imagined all that the next decade and a half would bring. A dog, a home, a family. His quiet strength and methodological nature provide a solid base for our family and keep us on track. We are true partners in raising these little people, providing a stability which I did not have during much of my childhood. Then, from time to time, he goes and surprises me in all the best ways, and I cannot believe my good fortune.
I am so thankful.